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Hannah Grant supports

New Zeland from South to North afoot - II. part

This means - to plunge headlong into one of the most difficult treks in the world! Or a bit of “punk policy” never hurts anyone!

Today is 9. 2. 2018, I am sitting by a sky blue lake and writing this article. From the beginning of my journey, it is exactly one month and there are thousands of thoughts in my mind that I would like to mention. It is not possible to “blow up the article” unfortunately, but I hope to give you my best experiences anyway.

On January 9, 2018, I set forth to start to the fight with myself. My journey through New Zealand has begun! I started my adventure with the planned Te Araroa trek, which is just over 3000 km long and it is necessary to overcome the “respectable” elevation gain of 100 km. I began my journey with a 22 kg heavy backpack, which is indication that I have no idea of anything! My experience of pilgrimage to Santiago did not include a crazy-high elevation gain or extreme weather events like the sun burning the skin on your body or the wind blowing you from side to side.

The weight on my back made the situation even worse and with every step I suffered more and more. After the first 30 kilometers I had large blood blisters all over my feet, I found out that carrying that weight on my back is completely senseless. I arrive in Invercargill and began to suffer from my injuries. After the first day my legs were extremely painful, the muscles hurt and the whole of my body was aching me. I knew, with a clear mind, it was necessary to think about what is important, I took all of my stuff out of the backpack and started the selection. Notebook? Was I a fool?  It was gone! Spare food and drinks, a second pair of shoes! Did I think I was going to the end of the world? This went on and on until I moved out more than 6 kg of unnecessary things. I packed everything methodically and posted the rest back home early the next morning.

The next day I started my journey with a smile on my face and I realised that without all the unnecessary things I felt much lighter! Terrific!  all will be fine now! From now on the walking changed significantly, the weight had become bearable, my mood was better and I was happily enjoying a 3-day trek along the beach, straight to Cola Bay where the road was heading to the mountains.

I finally got away from the roads and populated areas when I moved peacefully in to the Longwood Forest Protected Area, and then I realised why it is so well-known that New Zealand has the most beautiful nature on Earth. The journey has changed noticeably and It was not anymore long beaches but peaks soaring high to about 1200m above see level.

I was really happy when I was able to turn and look around the mountain tops even though every part of my body was perspiring. Lakes, valleys, mountain waterfalls, these are just a few of the snippets of what I have seen every day. I fully understand Peter Jackson’s choice to make the movie the Lord of the Rings in this country.

Since I walked in the mountains, I want to hang around.  Approximately every 8 days the path leads through a town, I re-supplied myself with food and then the road leads me back to the nearest hills again.
Because there is no mobile signal outside of the cities, it is a very liberating feeling. I have a mobile phone in the bottom of my backpack and you can call me for instance in the mountain valley and the echo may reply to you.
The first part of trekking was physically very demanding and because of every day sitting in an office, my body was not used to such frequent and demanding movements. After a while however, the desolation of human society appeared. It was pure luck to meet someone! It has often happened that I have not seen a single person for three days and therefore I started to talk to myself. It was not pleasant dialogues! Luckily, people began to appear and I meet someone from time to time. Every person I met on the trail always has a really inspiring story.

South Island has a very large network of so-called huts, which are basically mountain “chalets” with basic amenities such as beds, a table and possibly a fireplace for heating. Individuals can plan the day to end their program at the huts and it is a good idea because camping is not always possible, so I try to use it a lot. Therefore it has worked out that I rested almost half of my nights there.

Meanwhile, the most powerful experience for me was the crossing of the Motatapu Trek. It was one of the most challenging trails so far and within 3 days it was necessary to overcome almost 10 of the elevation gains. In return however, it offered a magnificent view of the valley. Opossum ambushed me in the night and in addition stole my boot. Fortunately I found the boot in grass nearby, so I could continue my journey. It wouldl certainly not be pleasant to walk barefoot.

The second prettiest place for me was Breast Hill Saddle, which offered unbelievable views of the lake Lake Hawea from more then 1600 m. above sea level.

Every day is pretty much like the day before. I get up in the morning, have breakfast and then I walk all day long and after my supper I go soon to sleep. I did not have to use the alarm once and I do not even need my watch. I am following the sun which is entirely sufficient. From the beginning of my journey I have a stable quantity of walked kilometers. If the elevation gain is small, I walk 34 km per day on average, and if I cross over the top of mountains, it is between 17 and 22 km per day.

At Stirling Point in Bluff, the most southern point of New Zealand is where I stood exactly a month ago. For the past month I have walked 613 km, overcome more than 25 thousand vertical meters, survived a tropical cyclone when I thought the tent would not withstand such a strong wind (but Hannah Falcon didn’t let me down!), waded countless rivers, walked a lot of days in drenched boots, but I overcome every day with a smile on my face and I was looking forward to seeing what beauty New Zealand would show me the following day.

Now I have just managed the rest of my journey. I believe it will be fabulous experience to reminisce about!